Hopes soar for a return of the White-tailed eagle back into the skies of Cumbria.

HOPES of returning the white-tailed sea eagle to Cumbrian skies have been strengthened after 90 per cent of people questioned said they would back a reintroduction programme.  The support was pledged during the first stage of important research into whether the giant birds of prey should be brought back to the Solway Coast. Campaigners argue such a move would bring a multi-million pound tourist boost.

Mic Mayhew, a masters student at the university, carried out the research and discovered that almost 90 per cent of people interviewed were in favour of the reintroduction project.

He said: “We are encouraged and excited that such a broad range of people, from farmers and fisherman to city workers in Carlisle, have shown their support for the project.”

Image by Terry Pickford.

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The survey focused on urban and rural locations in north Cumbria within the proposed area along the Solway coast, stretching from Carlisle in the east to Maryport in the west.

Mr Mayhew said that although only a small proportion of people objected, it was important that their concerns regarding the impact of sea eagles on farming interests and wildlife are taken into account.

The next stage of the feasibility study will look at the issues in more detail. Starting in the autumn, it will see wider consultation with local organisations who have an interest in the project.

Image by Terry Pickford.

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Mr Mayhew added: “By consulting with business, farming and conservation groups, we hope to address the concerns raised by the general public. We look forward to working together to find ways of making the project work without affecting the livelihoods of farmers and landowners, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet.”

White-tailed eagles have already been successfully reintroduced in Scotland but the Cumbrian project would be the first in England.

Campaigners hope to reassure farmers that the birds pose no great threat to livestock and would actually control the numbers of common agricultural pests such as rabbits, geese and gulls. Fishermen should be particularly pleased, because they often predate cormorants.

Image by Terry Pickford.

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The sea eagle was once resident across the UK but was persecuted to extinction at the start of the 20th century. Today it is still an extremely rare bird, with the Scottish population numbering no more than 60 pairs.

Although there are no sea eagles south of the border, Cumbria was the last refuge for the stunning birds in England, with the last pair recorded nesting at Wallow Crag near Haweswater in 1787.

Image by Terry Pickford.

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Dr Roy Armstrong, from the Cumbrian university sea eagle team, has campaigned for a reintroduction for several years and believes it would benefit Cumbria on many levels.

He said: “This is an exceptional opportunity to support the rural economy and bring tourists to the Solway coast 12 months of the year.

“The north Cumbrian coast is a great habitat for sea eagles and we would enjoy the same benefits as communities on Mull and Skye who have lived with these birds for over 30 years.

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“White-tailed eagles belong in Cumbria. By returning these spectacular birds to our area we could inspire a generation to get involved with nature and enjoy some of the best scenery this country has to offer.”

Image by Terry Pickford.

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5 comments to Hopes soar for a return of the White-tailed eagle back into the skies of Cumbria.

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

    This is wonderful news for Cumbria, in particular tourism – the sooner the project gets the green light the better! I just hope the hotel trade throughout Cumbria will realise the particular benefits to be gained by supporting this exciting project.

  • harrier man

    A fantastic opportunity to see these birds back in Cumbria as Terry stresses tourism and the knock on effects for the area will be immense everybody should welcome the move.

  • paul williams

    Fantastic…fingers crossed.

  • Rob

    From what I remember of the abortive East Anglian re-introduction project, a similar proportion of the public voted in favour as in Cumbria. Didn’t stop minority land-owning interests putting the kibosh on the project though. Really hope it succeeds in Cumbria though which is, after all, the last English county in which white-tailed eagles nested.

  • Stu Walker

    Has there been any further news on this possible reintroduction? As a resident of St Bees, I’d welcome seeing these amazing birds back.

    Editor’s Comment. Stu, it appears the progress has been stalled, we do not know why. If we can find out more details we will of course publish this for everyone to read.